President Donald Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, March 9, 2017, during a meeting with leaders from small community banks. () (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Trump backtracks on trade, will propose only "moderate" changes to NAFTA

Despite calling NAFTA a "disaster" throughout the campaign, Trump is looking to keep most of the trade agreement


Taylor Link
March 30, 2017 9:17PM (UTC)

Based on a draft proposal circulating Congress, President Trump and his administration will only seek modest changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump suggested he would obliterate NAFTA in his effort to pursue new unilateral trade agreements. He frequently called the pact a "disaster."

Under the Trump administration's new proposal, the U.S. would keep most of NAFTA's controversial provisions, including arbitration panels that let investors in the three nations avoid local courts to resolve civil claims, the Journal said.

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One major change, however, is a new provision that would allow a NAFTA nation to introduce tariffs if a boost in imports causes “serious injury or threat of serious injury” to domestic industries, the Journal reported.

Another objective in the administration's draft is “to establish rules that require government procurement to be conducted in a manner that is consistent with U.S. law and the administration’s policy on domestic procurement preferences,” the paper reported.

This makes room for Trump’s “Buy American” program, but might also cause U.S. companies to lose business in Mexico and Canada.

The document also strengthens digital trade and commerce, tougher intellectual property enforcement and requirements that state-owned companies operate in a commercial fashion, the paper reported.

The draft proposal is subject to revision, and the administration must give Congress 90 days’ notice under trade law before beginning formal NAFTA renegotiations.

While this backtrack from a campaign promise would not be the first in the president's young first term, it would be the first involving a policy issue that is so close to Trump's heart.

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Taylor Link

Taylor Link is an assistant editor at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @taylorlink_

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